The Walking Dead: “I Ain’t a Judas” (Season 2, Episode 11) & “Clear” (Season 2, Episode 12)

Flabbergasted

Man. More and more I don’t really know what to make of this show anymore. At times it’s astoundingly written, it definitely holds your interest, and yet… There’s a streak of sadism that keeps peeking through that I’m not so enchanted with. Maybe that’s just inevitable if you keep a zombie movie going past its two hour cinematic running time. Or maybe it’s just me. But I did find “Clear” in particular to be both brilliant and disturbing.

Nonetheless, the zombies are still pulling in more than ten million viewers a pop. That’s better than many a successful network show, so I think they’re here to stay.

“I Ain’t a Judas”

But you ain’t no Jesus, either, now are you? Sorry, couldn’t resist that one. It was too easy.

The prison is downbeat even for a decaying prison surrounded by rotting corpses. Everyone thinks the Governor can simply starve them out, which he probably could. And Rick is still freaking everyone out with his occasional bouts of insanity. He needs to “get his head clear,” an unashamed plug for next week’s episode.

Andrea is pissed that the Governor attacked the prison. They exchange typical TV barbs. Apparently she still hasn’t processed the full meaning of him having a head collection in aquariums. I’m not a woman, but I like to think most of them have higher standards than that, even in a post-Apocalyptic world.

We ping pong back and forth between more despair in the prison and more chicanery involving the distrustful Governor. Then it’s time for this week’s over-the-top gross out. Andrea wants to go to the prison and decides to use Michonne’s trick of having a pet walker to mask her scent. So yep, faster than you can bet your vomit bag, she and mousy Milton are hacking the arms off a walked and then smashing its teeth out face down against a rock. As they finish, poor Tyrese and his three followers show up. So they’re off to Woodbury, where I’m sure they’ll regale the locals with tales of Rick’s insanity.

Andrea gets a tough greeting at the prison. She’s appalled that her former friends look like something from “The Hills Have Eyes.” They’re appalled that she’s with the enemy. Michonne clues her in that the Governor, in addition to having a head collection, ordered Merle to track her down and kill her. Carol suggests Andrea give the Governor a quickie and then slit his throat.

It’s a fun crowd.

Rick and company are still decent enough to fix Andrea up with a car and a weapon for her return trip. When the Governor wants to know why she came back, he answers for her in this creepy, low-edged voice: “Because you belong here.” It’s almost as bad as the heads.

They make out anyway. As the Governor sleeps, Andrea gets a knife and holds it over him. She doesn’t do it, though, cuz’ she ain’t no Judas. She’s just got real issues with her choice of men.

“Clear”

In case you missed the cue from last episode, this will be The week Rick gets his head clear. And all it will take is a pig wallow in someone else’s misery.

The whole episode is a road trip. Rick, Michonne and Carl are going to Rick’s old home town to look for guns. It’s a well written case study in brutalization, but as I noted earlier, it’s a bit much. The point is first driven home by having them drive by a hiker with an orange backpack who pleads for them to stop. That’s about as subtle as a baseball bat over the head. It’s also one of several points in this episode where I, as a viewer, blinked.

It’s a effective visual device to show brutalization, but last week’s problem remains paramount—Rick needs numbers for his war with Woodbury. He already chased off Tyrese and company, four able bodies. Now he’s simply driving away from another potential able body.

Brutalization is one thing. Dumb is another. And it feels a bit forced to those of us who remember Darryl putting his neck on the line for strangers on an overpass last week.

The second brutalization demonstration comes when the car gets stuck and surrounded by walkers. Rick is simply bored as he cracks the window and blows their heads off one after the other. As they get the car unstuck, the guy they left behind is running up the road, pleading for help. They drive off again.

To make a long story short, they find Morgan, the man who saved Rick in the pilot. And he’s nuts. He has an awful story to tell about losing his son, which is just depressing as hell. On the one hand, it’s an effective shock device for the audience. We’ve seen Rick’s descent, so it has lost some of its edge for us. The last time we saw Morgan, he was a good guy. So it’s quite the slap in the face. Brutalization made fresh. Good writing in that regard, but it also felt sadistic to me. Basically, let’s make Morgan as wretched as possible solely to make a point.

Rick’s old house here burned down. Carl wants to find a picture of his family, so he makes up various stories to get near an old bar presumably run by someone they know. He wants his baby sister Judith to know what her mother looked like some day. Touching enough I suppose. So while Rick tends to Morgan, Michonne and Carl wind up in the bar. That provides the action-oriented tension this episode as it has its share of walkers.

Speaking of which, this show is getting careless in its depiction of the threat. After they escape the bar and lock it behind them. Michonne has Carl lean against the door to keep the walkers inside fixated while she slips back in to get the picture. But we’ve seen walkers smash through glass like that before. It seems decidedly unsafe, except we’re now seeing walkers written differently to allow a cutesy scene.

Well, as cutesy as anything with rotting corpses can be.

Back at Morgan, the pig wallow continues as Morgan begs Rick to kill him. Rick just takes some guns instead. Hopefully he took some of the hand grenades Morgan had collected as well. No background checks in the post-Apocalyptic world.

Morgan appears to have jolted Rick somewhat to his senses. And I’ve rarely been so glad to leave a ruined character behind. Our band takes back to the road. The final sadistic flourish involves a body and guts strewn about. The orange backpack is close by. That, they stop to get.

Will Conservatives Like These Episodes?

I don’t know. I liked them from a dramatic structure point of view, but I’m not sure I actually “liked” them in other regards. The show’s gone beyond being a bit mean. It almost seems to enjoy being mean at this point.

Something to ponder.

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